In-flight explosion creates pressure for engine inspections


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The engine explosion aboard a Southwest Airlines jetliner puts new pressure on airlines and regulators to act faster to inspect the fan blades that may have snapped off and triggered the accident that killed a passenger.

The initial findings from investigators show that Tuesday's emergency was eerily similar to an engine failure on another Southwest plane in 2016. That breakdown led the engine manufacturer to recommend new inspections of fan blades on many Boeing 737s.

Investigators say a fan blade snapped off as Southwest Flight 1380 cruised at 500 mph high above Pennsylvania. The failure set off a catastrophic chain of events that killed a woman and broke a string of eight straight years without a fatal accident involving a U.S. airliner.

"This fan blade was broken right at the hub, and our preliminary examination of this was there is evidence of metal fatigue where the blade separated," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

Sumwalt said he is concerned about Tuesday's engine failure, but would not extrapolate that to the CFM56 engines or the entire fleet of Boeing 737s, the most popular airliner ever built.

Today, federal investigators were still trying to determine how a window came out of the plane, killing a woman who was seated in that row and wearing a seat belt. No plastic material from the window was found in the 737, Sumwalt told a news conference.

Family members have identified the woman as 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan, a banking executive and mother of two from Albuquerque, N.M. Passengers say Riordan was partially sucked out of the window after the plane was hit by engine debris.

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